PDF Living with Fire: Fire Ecology and Policy for the Twenty-first Century

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In: Ffolliott, P. Fire history in riparian pine-oak forests and the intervening desert grasslands of the Southwest Borderlands: a dendrochronological, historical, and cultural inquiry. Masters Thesis, The University of Arizona.

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Martinson, E. Fuel treatments and fire severity: a meta- analysis. Miller, J.

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Quantifying burn severity in a heterogeneous landscape with a relative version of the delta Normalized Burn Ratio dNBR. Remote Sens. Minor, J. Forests 8: Morino, K. Baisan, and T. O'Connor, C. Fire severity, size, and climate associations diverge from historical precedent along an ecological gradient in the Pinaleno Mountains, Arizona, USA. Parker, A. The successional status of Cupressus arizonica. Great Basin Naturalist Poulos, H.

Plant Ecology Swetnam, T. Historical fire regime patterns in the southwestern United States since AD In: Allen, C. Tree-ring reconstructions of fire and climate history in the Sierra Nevada and southwestern United States. In: Veblen, T. Springer, pp. Forest fire histories of the sky islands of La Frontera. In: Webster, G. Wolfson, B.

The Horseshoe 2 Fire: 6 years post-fire, a Story Map. Southwest Fire Science Consortium.

Post-wildfire erosion in the Chiricahua Mountains. In: Gottfried, G. Merging science and management in a rapidly changing world: Biodiversity and management of the Madrean Archipelago III. Explore This Park. Sky Island Fire Ecology. Figure 1. A vegetation map of Arizona.

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Notice plains, desert grasslands and mountain meadows green rising into montane conifer forests blue in the southeast corner of Arizona. Fire is a keystone ecological process in the vegetation of the Sky Islands of Arizona and beyond.

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It affects every aspect of these ecosystems: soils, forest structure, species composition, carbon storage, wildlife populations, and more. For thousands of years, wildfires have not been a disruptive external force. Fires have been a basic part of natural communities, as essential as water, sunlight, soil, and air. Times have changed. Humans putting fires out fire suppression and climate change have dramatically altered fire regimes.

The fires of the 21st century are a serious problem.

Uncharacteristically large, intense fires disrupt ecosystems that historically experienced frequent, but low-intensity wildfire. These large fires also threaten human communities in the rapidly-growing wildland-urban interface. The Eco-Geography of Vegetation and Fire in Arizona Vegetation plants in a specific area and fire regime vary naturally in relation to climate, topography, and soils.

Arizona has tremendous variety in these factors Figure 1. In terms of land forms and ecology, the state can be divided roughly into three parts. To the north, the high Colorado Plateau is largely forested. The Colorado Plateau is also dissected by deep arid canyons, like the Grand Canyon. A vast desert landscape covers the southwestern part of the state. In southeastern Arizona, low desert scrub and grassland are punctuated by mountain ranges. A remarkable diversity of species and communities results. These sky islands are a regional biodiversity hotspot. Steep mountainsides cut by sharp canyons create complex vegetation patterns.

Cooler, moister, higher elevations support species mainly from the Rocky Mountains. Species from the Sierra Madre are prevalent in the lower to mid-elevation, arid dry zones. A person can walk, for example, with little change in elevation, and still experience many natural communities. Echo Park or the Natural Bridge Trail are good examples. Still, this plant mosaic shifts in elevation. You leave more arid, open communities behind and encounter wetter, closed communities. This primer will focus on chaparral, woodlands, and forests, the most common vegetation types in the park.

Scientific names of species are found in Appendix 1. The plants of Chiricahua National Monument represent many different biomes. Wildfire has three requirements: a spark, sufficiently dry conditions, and continuous fuel. In the Sky Islands, lightning during dry, spring conditions often starts fires. In fact, lightning frequency is extremely high in the Sky Islands. Ridgetops and lowland grasslands are thought to have been common ignition points. Fire would then spread up or down canyons. Indigenous people across the Americas, throughout time, used fire for different purposes.

Were historic fires in the Chiricahua Mountains set by Apache? Knowledge of Apache use of fire is fragmentary. Based on research, fire frequency in the mountains was higher during times of warfare. Fire might have been an Apache tool of war with the Spanish and Americans. Even so, evidence to date suggests that most fires were lightning-caused. Lightning continues to play a key role in igniting wildfires. Today, many wildfires are set by humans, whether by accident or on purpose. The other two requirements for fire—dry conditions and continuous fuel—vary with climate and vegetation.

Fires are rare in deserts, which are dry enough but lack continuous fuel. In moister grasslands, woodlands, and forests, fuels are more continuous and conditions still dry enough for fires to occur. Under natural conditions, this limits fuel accumulation and fosters low-intensity, surface burns.

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Madrean pine-oak and Arizona pine forests are examples of these types of ecosystems. In mixed coniferous forests at the highest elevations, fire regimes are more complex. Long intervals between fires lead to fuel build-up and high-intensity fire. This often leads to stand replacement. On drier, south-facing slopes, with ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir, fires range widely.

Fires could be low to high-severity, depending on weather. Figure 2: Cat face fire scars show the fire history of a tree over its life. Fires in pre-Euro-American times are not the fire regimes of today. We can divide the history of fire regimes into three distinct eras for the Southwest.

This led to landscape-scale surges in tree density and fuel; and a contemporary era of large, intensified wildfires. The ecosystems viewed by visitors to Chiricahua result from these three fire eras.


The massive Horseshoe Two Fire of is the main force shaping the current appearance of the monument. How did they figure out the fire regime of this area from centuries ago? These wounds have black char on their lower trunks and are called cat faces see Figure 2.